Friday, July 22, 2016


When STAR TREK first began its voyages 50 years ago on television, it was a space adventure done with a sense of hope and optimism and sprinkled with humanity and classical storytelling. When the franchise moved onto the silver screen in 1979, the stakes were raised, the stories got bigger, and some of that old TREK-feeling was left behind. Justin Lin’s STAR TREK BEYOND, now the 13th film in the franchise and the third since the 2009 reboot/re-start, is a TREK film which sets out to find what was lost.

The starship Enterprise is on its third year of its five-year mission, and the crew is getting restless. Captain Kirk (Chris Pine) is considering taking a desk job, and his friend/First Officer Spock (Zachary Quinto) is also considering leaving the crew when Enterprise is lured to a remote planet by Krall (Idris Elba), and maroons the crew on the planet as he plans to unleash an attack on the Federation.

STAR TREK BEYOND is very much done in the spirit of an original TREK episode, with simple plotting set with a captain-and-his-crew story. Things take a great turn when the crew is marooned and split apart; Kirk and his Navigator Checkov (Anton Yelchin) are on their own, as is Spock and Dr. McCoy (Karl Urban), while Chief Engineer Scotty (Simon Pegg) is alone until he befriends an alien she-warrior named Jaylah (Sofia Boutella), and Lt. Uhura (Zoe Saldana) and helmsman Sulu (John Cho) are in the clutches of Krall. The plot is simple; rescue the crew and stop the bad guy (with a few excellent twists), but what makes it work is that BEYOND is very much a character-driven film. By isolating everyone, each character gets to be their own role in the plot and have an impact. Even when separated, the crew acts as a team, and every member has their moment…which pays off greatly towards the end as each character brings something vital to the table (or the bridge).

Director Justin Lin, working off a script which was co-written by Simon Pegg, keeps the galactic pedal-to-the-metal at all times. Pacing is very fast, almost to a fault, and the result is a very energetic film with a great sense of forward momentum and urgency. When it does slow down for the occasional necessary pauses, the time is used wisely for some nice character moments. The action scenes and setpieces are spectacular with a vast sense of scale, particularly in the outer-space scenes with Enterprise. As good as the bigger setpieces are, the tighter fight-scenes are a bit muddy; anything that goes into hand-to-hand combat resorts to too much shaky-cam and really needed to hold still. It’s a minor gripe in a very-well photographed film. Old-school TREK fans are in for a treat, as the Enterprise looks fantastic thanks to Lin’s loving and graceful shots on her exterior and interiors, and the film is graced with some heart-string pulling nods to the old STAR TREK crew and the other films and TV series.

Acting is as wonderful as it’s ever been in a STAR TREK movie. Chris Pine has grown into a role of leadership, and his chemistry with Zachary Quinto’s Spock is getting better and better. Karl Urban gets the best lines and executes them perfectly, and Simon Pegg also chews the scenery in a good way. Sofia Boutella, despite having to act her way past a ton of makeup and being a bit thinly drawn, is a blast to watch. Idris Elba also has the task of acting his way past 500 pounds of makeup and prosthetic, but his performance is solid although his villain-character is also a bit underdeveloped. The rest of the cast, including John Cho, Zoe Saldana, Shohreh Aghdashloo, and the late Anton Yelchin are perfect.

The original STAR TREK set out on the small-screen with an attempt to be relevant in society along with its hope and optimism, and that is certainly present in this film, and going deeper…the way the crew comes together and works with alien races of all shapes and sizes drives home a subtle we’re-not-all-that-different-on-the-outside message, which once again makes TREK a relevant force in the real world. Everything STAR TREK set out to accomplish 50 years ago is present here, and as a film it is a solid space adventure and a perfect big-screen experience.


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